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The Cinema of Iceland

Between Tradition and Liquid Modernity


Sebastian Jakub Konefał

The last decade was an exceptional period for the Icelandic cinema. The films produced during this time have won many prestigious awards at international festivals. Cinematic images of Iceland eclectically interlace myths, stereotypes and postmodern means of expression. At first glance, the local films obsessively repeat the same themes which might be incomprehensible for a foreign viewer. However, academic research on the most interesting motion pictures creates an opportunity to study the birth and development of small, but energetic and ambitious cinematography. Such an experience also allows analyzing problems related to the system of film production in this sparsely populated country and helps identify challenges during the process of introducing a local culture abroad. Finally, studying Icelandic cinema gives a chance to go on the audiovisual journey through the fascinating culture and unique landscapes.

The author of the book analyses popular topics and narrative strategies in Icelandic films. The research covers local versions of black comedies, road movies and crime stories as well as different figures connected with the motif of struggle between tradition and modernity.

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5 Restless Daughters of Freyja: Female Soul of Icelandic Cinema


“In Icelandic nationalist discourse women were regarded as being in closer contact with nature than men and, by nature, as different from men. This, however, did not make women inferior to men, but rather superior, as women embodied and controlled the essential source of Icelandic men’s life, spirit, identity and political power”.205


The flood of the international awards for the Icelandic directors in the year 2015 provoked some stormy discussions in the local community about the low presence of women in the motion pictures industry and within the art cinema. Such doubts seem to be rightly justified. The female filmmakers from the homeland of Björk are still in minority. This fact was so important for Icelanders that the most important institutions supporting the cinematic production issued a special statement analyzing the situation of women in the local film industry.206 The polls and researches from 2015 presented in the article, significantly titled Ladies, don’t worry about the lack of female film directors. You can always resort to prostitution, MRA explains indicate that nearly 90 % of submitted film applications were given to men.207 Moreover, the average foreign viewer who could treat contemporary Icelandic cinema as the main and objective source of information about the situation of women in modern Ultima Thule may come to the conclusion that this small volcanic island is a country where women have always lived (and still exist) in very severe social conditions. Although ←139 | 140→the homeland...

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